A PILLAR OF PROGRESS

Sharjah 2015 | EDUCATION | FOCUS: UNIVERSITY CITY

In 1997, HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammed Al Qasimi translated his grand vision of Sharjah as a beacon of education in the region into a reality by establishing the Emirate's University City.

Having served as the Minister of Education of the UAE from 1971 to 1972, holding a PhD in Political Geography with Distinction in History and a Bachelor's degree in Agricultural Engineering, HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi is well known for his passion for science and education. Hoping to boost a sector that was still very much in its infancy in the 1990s, His Highness established the University City in Sharjah as the largest university city in the world, and simultaneously founded the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah, which both took up residence in this newly created area.

Covering an area of 15sqm in the vicinity of Sharjah International Airport, Sharjah's University City is truly a sight to behold, as its dearth of university buildings, which are distinguished by their Islamic architecture, oozes a majestic grandeur that one would normally not associate with a university complex. It is in this very place that the vision of Sharjah's ruler for education takes form and shape, serving as the engine of educational transformation that should propel the state of education in the region forward.
Over the years, a variety of educational institutions have been set up in the University City. In addition to the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah, the city boasts the presence of Skyline University College and the Higher Colleges of Technology, as well as a range of smaller institutions such as the Dr. Sultan Al Qasimi Centre of Gulf Studies, Sharjah Police Academy, Institute of Training and Judicial Studies, Regional Centre for Educational Planning and Training, the College of Law, University City Hall, Sharjah Library, and the Sharjah Institute of Technology.

The city's most recent addition is the Sharjah Centre for Space Sciences and Astronomy, which falls under the umbrella of the University of Sharjah. The Centre is expected to contribute significantly to scientific research in the fields of space sciences and astronomy, while at the same time showcasing the contributions of Islamic culture and science to astronomy. The Centre's dome shaped planetarium contains a gigantic “Star Ball,” which allows for the display of celestial bodies to an audience of up to 200 people.

The Sharjah Centre for Space Sciences and Astronomy thus provides a stimulus to scientific research in the Middle East, which has hitherto lagged behind compared to research at universities in other parts of the world. Another recent initiative that will most certainly benefit this nascent aspect of the region's academic sector is the American University's Research, Technology, and Innovation Park, which should see the University become a center for research and innovation by attracting companies to relocate their research and development divisions to the Park.

As can be expected, a plethora of amenities are in place on the University City's premises. Accommodation to students is offered in the form of dormitories, and there is a wide range of sport facilities available, as well as banks, shops, restaurants, and mosques.
As one of the largest university cities in the world and the first of its kind in the Middle East, Sharjah's University City has been the force behind the Emirate's emergence as frontrunner in the region's education sector. Through the establishment of Sharjah's University City, His Highness has turned his abstract vision for education and science into a tangible enabling environment for universities and institutions of higher education to thrive in. On a larger scale, the University City has allowed him to strengthen and progress the position of education in the region. As the next phase of the sector's development has come, which is aimed at improving the state of scientific research in the Middle East, Sharjah's University City is set to once more play a central and catalytic role.